Tag Archives: Eggless

Cutlets Meet Vada Pav Sliders (Indian Potato Burgers)

Standard

021314e

There is a delicious Indian treat called “Vada Pav” that is a round deep-fried potato ball served on a bun with garlic chutney. It is so good to eat with the crispy chickpea flour coating outside and the soft flavorful potatoes inside. I decided to try a  healthy twist on this dish, though I would never turn down the original! I’m not trying to improve it but rather make it a bit more healthy for everyday eating. Not that I’m suggesting that this be eaten everyday! With the addition of cooked mung beans, it’s more of a cross between the Vada Pav and a cutlet.

This is a recipe that calls for a few Indian ingredients. If you don’t have them, then come up with your own spice mix. I think a southwest version would be very good. Hmm… that’s definitely a future experiment! The traditional version of Vada Pav features garlic chutney. It gives it a delicious, spicy flavor. However, you don’t need the garlic chutney to complete this dish – sub in some spicy ketchup or other chutney or just dress it up as you would  a burger. You won’t be disappointed!

Healthy Twist on Vada Pav (Indian Potato Burgers) (Makes approx. 9 patties)

1 cup mung beans, cooked
1 potato, boiled or steamed, mashed and cooled (about 1 cup of potato)
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing
a few curry leaves, chopped
1/2 cup of onions, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan) plus additional flour for coating
1/8 – 1/4 cup oil for pan frying
small round hamburger buns
1/2 cup dry garlic chutney (or to taste)

In a large bowl, mix together the mung beans and potato. In a small pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onion and allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring. Then add the garlic and ginger paste and cayenne. Allow to cook for a minute or until the garlic is cooked to your liking. Remove from heat and pour this in the mung bean mixture. Add the salt and 1/4 cup of chickpea flour and mash everything together until well combined. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.When the mixture is ready,  roll it into large rounds approx. 2″ in diameter. Set aside until all are rolled out. Place the additional chickpea flour on a plate and roll each ball in the chickpea flour, dusting the outside with the flour.

021314a

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a tbsp or 2 of oil. When the oil is heated, place a few of the balls in the oil, pressing down slightly on the top to flatten a little.

021314b

Once the bottom is nicely browned, flip over each ball and cook on the other side, flattening a bit more.

021314c

Once browned on the 2nd side, remove from the oil to a plate or paper. Repeat frying until all of the balls are cooked.

021314d

If using the garlic chutney, spread a nice layer on the bottom bun, place the patty on the bun, top with sliced onion. Or skip the chutney and use condiments of your choice. Enjoy!

021314hero

Advertisements

Coconut & Peanut Poha

Standard

021114poha

Have you ever been searching for something in your pantry or kitchen only to find a whole package of something else? And then realize that you really should use it soon before it expires/stales/etc.? That’s what happened today when I found a very large bag of thick poha. It was a pleasant surprise since my hubby and I both love poha. In case you don’ t know about this unusual ingredient, poha is also called “beaten rice” and “flattened rice”. It’s basically a dried flattened raw rice product that can be used raw or cooked. Poha is used in Indian snacks, breakfasts, lunches and light meals in both savory and sweet preparations. It can be added to some dosa batters to thicken the batter. It’s an ingredient that is easy to work with and keeps a long time. Pick up a package next time you are in an Asian or Indian market! A few years ago I posted a recipe for the thin variety of poha.

Here’s a simple recipe I made for lunch today that turned much better than I expected. I started looking in a few cookbooks for ideas, but didn’t really find anything that seemed new. My usual go-to recipe for thick poha uses onion and potato. That seemed too heavy for today. Therefore, I started out with a very basic recipe but tweaked it a bit by adding peanuts (for protein), cilantro for more flavor and lots of coconut. It turned out light, spicy and very tasty. I hope you try it too!

Coconut & Peanut Poha (Serves 4)

4 cups of thick poha
4 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup raw peanuts (or roasted peanuts)
2 tsp salt or to taste
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp urad dal
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried red chili peppers, broken
1 green chili peppers, sliced
4 tbsp water
sprig of curry leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen (not sweet!) coconut flakes
cilantro – about 1/2 cup chopped
lemon slices

The poha is a little tricky. It’s easy to make it too soft so be careful. You don’t want it too soft and soggy nor do you want it “al dente”: Place the poha in a large colander or strainer and place in the sink. Quickly wash the poha with water running, using your hand to fluff it and get each grain wet. Let the water drain immediately. Let sit for a few minutes. It should have softened without any additional water. Taste a bite to see if it’s soft enough for you. When it’s ready, place it in a large bowl and set aside.

Heat a medium-sized pan of your choice over medium heat. Add the coconut oil and raw peanuts (if using roasted peanuts, skip this step). Allow the peanuts to fry a bit until they are browned. Once done, immediately remove from the oil to a plate (leaving the oil in the pan), sprinkle with a bit of salt and allow to cool.

Now add the mustard seeds to the oil. Once popping, add the urad dal, cumin seeds, red chili peppers, green chili peppers and curry leaves. Carefully add the water and allow it to cook off. This will make the urad dal soft. When the water is evaporated, pour this seasoning over the washed poha.

Now toss in the peanuts, coconut flakes and cilantro. Add salt to taste. Stir gently but well. If the poha is a bit too wet it may stick together. If that happens, just stir as gently as possible, breaking up pieces as you do so. Can you tell that I have experience at making the poha too soft? It’s okay if it happens, it will still taste good! Serve with some yummy garlic pickle and lemon slices to squeeze over.

Mouth-watering Mushroom, Kale & Tofu Scramble & Grits

Standard

020414hero

Hello! I’m back to the Indian-inspired cooking for a bit. It’s “cold” here in S. Cali this week requiring some spicy comfort food. Yes, it’s in the high 50’s to low 60’s, but what can I say? This morning I threw together a quick tofu scramble while the grits were gurgling on the stove. I love mushrooms and when I’m feeling a bit under the weather they always seem to bring me back around. For some extra nutrients, I threw in kale and tomatoes. The tomatoes were just cooked enough to be soft but still pop a little in your mouth. Hence, the “mouth-watering” description. I ate these served over yellow corn grits with a few dashes of super-spicy Marie Sharp’s Belizean Heat. I think grits have to be eaten with a bit of hot sauce. Just goes hand-in-hand.

This is an easier recipe than my scrambled tofu with spinach since I don’t use onion and garlic. It also takes less time since you don’t have to wait on the onion to cook. The only thing you have to mess with is chopping the mushrooms (and kale if using fresh). I have a bag of organic kale in the freezer. It’s handy for quick meals where I really need some greens. The kale cooks faster than fresh since the ice crystals have broken it down a bit.

If you don’t have all of the spices, run out to the store and get them! What are you waiting for? Just kidding… you can add whatever you like – just don’t use too much of any one thing so you keep a balanced flavor. Of course, you could go the Mexican or Italian route with the spices too. Tomorrow I will use the leftovers to make tacos with corn tortillas. Just throw on some spicy salsa, fresh shredded cabbage and another nice, healthy meal is ready! Here is today’s version of the tofu scramble…

Mouth-watering Mushroom, Kale & Tofu Scramble & Grits (serves 2 – 4)

1 pkg. firm tofu (press out the water for 10 – 15 minutes)
1 lb. of portabella or other mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 cup of kale, frozen or washed and chopped
2+ tbsp oil
2 tsp of black salt (or to taste)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 tsp garam masala (optional)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
hot sauce to taste
3 cups cooked grits

Heat up your trusty cast-iron skillet (or other large skillet) to medium. When it’s really hot, add your mushrooms and let them cook for a minute or two. Stir and add a pinch of salt over them. As they start cooking down and releasing their water, you can add the oil and kale. After about two minutes, crumble the tofu with your hands into the skillet. There should be bite-sized pieces and some smaller pieces. Add a bit more oil if necessary to keep it from sticking. Stir and then add all of the spices and stir again to get the spices incorporated. Reduce the heat to low. Allow to cook, stirring only once in while so that the tofu starts to get slightly brown and crispy in spots. After approximately 5 – 8 minutes, make a little space in the middle of the pan by moving everything else to the sides. Toss the tomatoes in the center and let everything cook for about 3 minutes. Stir and turn off the heat. Keep in mind that cooking times will vary depending on the type of tofu you are using, how much water is in it, if you are using cast-iron or not… Spoon over hot grits. Serve with fresh cilantro and hot sauce.

020414lcose

Wild Salad Sunday – Food Foraging in Huntington Botanical Garden

Standard

020214saladbowl

Another post for my Salad Project! This morning I had the opportunity to attend a Food Foraging class at the Huntington Botanical Gardens. For an avid gardener like myself, this was heaven on Sunday morning! We gathered early while there was still a chill in the air. Our teacher, Nancy Klehm, greeted us and gave us an intro on foraging. I enjoyed hearing her talk about how to treat the plants that are foraged. She doesn’t just go and rip out the plants, rather she gently takes a bit and leaves the rest for others. Just as we would never stomp through the wilderness while hiking, destroying things, we don’t want to destroy the plants that are feeding us. I agree with this outlook and respect for nature and for the plants.

We got started with a tasting of a bit of tea made with foraged dandelion root and burdock root as well as a tincture made with wild burdock root. She also brought some dried wild plums that we tasted. They reminded me of hibiscus tea. We then started our foraging as Nancy showed us several “weeds” and wild foods that are edible and/or medicinal. We learned about which foods can help the liver, kidneys and blood, how to use the plants for first aid and how to choose the best-tasting parts of the plants. The most useful take-away for me is finding out that all of these so-called weeds that we have in S. California are actually edibles. And they are high in nutritive values as well! We have a bed of radishes and carrots at our school garden that is overrun with oxalis, mallow and sow thistle (sonchus) that I will now leave in peace. The “weeds” can live in harmony with the radishes and carrots (as long as it isn’t too crowded). What a great salad it will make for our students.

At the end of our class, we feasted on some wonderful things. Each student gathered some wild greens for a community salad. Nancy brought a fruity tahini-based dressing (my favorite dressing base) that she mixed with some homemade several-fruits-vinegar, garlic and some other things. She also shared some homemade crackers with lavender seeds, fresh cheese made from raw cow’s milk, and wild current preserves. To top it off, she made a frittata with foraged oyster mushrooms, wild spinach and some other foraged greens. To wash it down, we had a tea made with wild sumac that was very tangy for lack of a better description (don’t try to make this at home as there are not-so edible types of sumac!). Thanks for a great class, Nancy!

020214hero

020214frittata

If you are going foraging, please be mindful of not eating things from sprayed areas or polluted areas. Better yet, take a class with Nancy! Here is a link to her website. Here are photos of just a few of the plants we learned about today:

Miner’s Lettuce / Claytonia perfoliata

020214minerslettuce

Oxalis (Wood Sorrel)

020214oxalis

Chickweed / Stellaria media

020214stellariamedea

Mallow / Malva neglecta 

020214mallow

Curly Dock / Rumex crispus

020214curlydock

 

Wild Salad with Foraged Foods

In a large bowl, place:

handful each of 3 or more of any of the following: wild spinach, oxalis, sow thistle, dandelion, clover, wild mustard, mallow, yarrow, mugwort, curly dock, chickweed, plaintain leaf
add a handful  or two of mint, lemon balm, Calendula leaves and / flowers, arugula, nasturtium leaves and/or flowers

Try to balance the bitter greens with the milder greens, the drier leaves with wetter leaves and add various flowers for texture and color. Mix and toss with dressing of your choice or the dressing below. Bitter greens are usually good with some type of fruit-flavored dressing.

Standard Tahini-Orange Dressing

1/4 cup of tahini
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of water plus more as needed
1 – 2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the tahini and orange juice, stirring and adding water until it is the consistency you like. Add the minced garlic and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes if possible to allow the garlic to infuse the dressing.

Anya’s Famous Fruit Salad – My 6 year old Guest Blogger

Standard

012314hero2

Our guest blogger for this post is my 6 year-old daughter. She loves to make fruit salads and has become quite good at it! She says her salad is “Famous, but it’s not really famous”. My son worked as the photographer and did a wonderful job. Thanks to both of them for helping out!

Salads are a great way to get the kids in the kitchen and involved with cooking. They can learn to prep veggies and fruits (great for you later when they can serve as sous chef!), how to use a knife safely, wash foods properly and learn math (fractions, multiplication and division). My daughter is very artistic and enjoys making food look pretty by arranging things just so on the perfect dish. Both of my kids love to help out with any cooking. They like to try the foods that they are working with which broadens their food choices. While making this salad, we taste-tested pomegranate seeds, pomegranate vinegar and pomegranate molasses while I was teaching them how to open up a pomegranate. Of course, you can sub whatever fruits you like in this dish. But try to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce or reintroduce foods that your kids say they don’t like… you never know if they will change their minds! The more variety we eat, the more nutrients we get. But don’t tell them that, just say it tastes good!

Anya’s Famous Fruit Salad 

3 clementine or mandarin oranges
1 banana
1 apple
1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp liquid sweetener of choice (agave, maple, optional)

Peel the oranges and divide the segments. Add to a plate or bowl.

012314a

Cut the apple and banana into bite size pieces. Add to the plate or bowl.

012314b 012314c 012314d 012314f

Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and sweetener (agave or maple syrup, etc.). Eat.

012314e012314g012314hero

Quick and Healthy Lentil & Veggie Salad (and How to Cook Brown Lentils)

Standard


012214lentilsalad hero1

Hello! Continuing on with the Salad Project theme, here is a quick recipe that features those lowly brown lentils. I feel almost guilty blogging about such an easy recipe! However, I love this salad and lentils in particular: they are tasty, extremely healthy and the dry beans last a long time in the pantry. They cook quickly (no need for a pressure cooker or pre-soaking) and are very economical. I bought a huge bag of them at my local Middle Eastern market last week. I have been craving lentil soup lately so made a two-for-one batch of lentils. If you cook 1 1/2 cups dried lentils you will get approximately 5 cups of cooked lentils! Eat ’em, freeze ’em, share ’em… I will post the soup recipe later this week. BTW, sorry for the terrible photo! It was nearly impossible to get anything good with this winter lighting. We have summer weather but winter sun.

I have been making a variation of this Lentil Salad for at least 15 years. I think people are surprised that a bean salad can be so good. Maybe they are expecting a typical American-style salad with heavy dressing. If you add a bunch of veggies chopped up or shredded finely, it makes for a lighter salad. The addition of a citrus or other fruit lightens it up too but isn’t necessary. Of course, you can add any veggies or fruits that you like or have on hand. Today was the first time I have used cabbage but it turned out great. I even got a thumbs up from my 6-year-old! This would be a great side salad to a burger, piled on top of a lettuce salad or a potluck dish at a barbecue. Serve at room temp or chilled.

Quick and Healthy Lentil & Veggie Salad (Serves 4)

2 cups brown lentils (cooked but not mushy) (see notes below on cooking lentils)
1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 cup parsley, leaves chopped finely
2 green onions, finely chopped
4 radishes, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp salt, or to taste

Combine the lentils and veggies in a bowl. Pour over the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Stir well, then taste for seasoning. You are done!

012214lentilsalad hero

Bonus recipe: How to Cook Whole Brown Lentils (or other small whole lentils)

As I said above, dry lentils expand a lot once they are cooked. If you cook too much for your meal, just freeze them. Wash about 1 cup of lentils in a medium-sized sauce pan, rinsing a few times and removing the floaters. Sometimes there may be little clods of dirt or stones. Do a quick pick-through to make sure you get all debris out. I rarely find anything but once I missed a rock and thankfully I was the one to find it!

The total cooking time will depend on how tender you want the final product. For salads, cook until just done but not split open or mushy. For soups or lentil loaf or burgers, you may want to cook them longer. I cooked lentils for a few years before I realized that I didn’t have to cook them to a mush (I was always making soup, so it didn’t matter). But the difference between just cooked and mush is a world apart. Once you are debris-free and well-rinsed, add at least three times as much water as lentils to cover. Place on medium-high heat and cover. Bring it to a boil. Do not add salt! Now you can continue using the fast method or the slower method:

Fast method – once the pot comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for approximately 25 minutes (less if using smaller lentils). Check for the water level after about 15 minutes, you may need to add more water. Remove from heat when the lentils are cooked to the desired tenderness and drain the excess water.

Slower method – once the pot comes to a boil, turn off the heat and keep the lid on. Let it sit for 1/2 hour up to a couple of hours. When you are ready to move on, drain the water (notice how much they have plumped up), taste a lentil for tenderness and cover the lentils with more water (twice a much water as lentils). Return to the stove, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook to desired tenderness. This cooking time will depend on how long you let them soak earlier (and how old your beans are, etc.). Remove from the heat and drain excess water. (I drain the initial soaking water to get rid of some of the scum and gas-making compounds – but it isn’t necessary.)

Enjoy!

Savory Semolina Cake (Sooji Dhokla) + YouTube Debut

Standard
Savory Semolina Cake (Sooji Dhokla) + YouTube Debut

Hello and welcome to This Spicy Life!

Yesterday was the debut of my YouTube channel featuring a Sooji Dhokla recipe by my friend Leena. I think you will agree that Leena does a great job of showing how to make this delicious and easy snack. Please forgive my lack of filmmaking skills! Anyway, I think the video came out much better than expected for our first try. Click on the video at the top right corner to see our tutorial. We are hoping this is the first of many collaborations!

Here is a link to the YouTube Channel for ThisSpicyLife: 

Dhoklas are a light and satisfying snack that is popular in India. They can be made from semolina (sooji) or chickpea flour and eaten with a chutney. Dhoklas are usually steamed in special pan inside a larger pot. You can easily substitute a small cake pan or pie plate, as long as it fits inside of a large pot. Here we used a 6″ cake pan set on top of a wok stand inside of a large stock pot. Add enough water to reach almost to the top of the wok stand and set the cake pan on top of this. Put the lid on and you have a homemade steamer.

Leena’s Savory Semolina Cake (Sooji Dhokla)

Serves 6 – 8

  • 2 cups semolina or sooji (medium size is preferred)
  • 2 tbsp yogurt (unsweetened – can use soy or other yogurt)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp ginger-chili paste (1″ fresh ginger blended with 4-6 green chilis)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 3 tsp eno fruit salt (available at Asian grocery stores)
  • 2+ cups of water
  • 6 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 6 curry leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 2 green chilis, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 3 tsp mustard seeds
Method:
  1. Place the semolina in a large bowl. Add the yogurt, ginger-chili paste, salt and sesame seeds. Mix well.
  2. While continuing to mix, add enough water to make a medium thick batter.
  3. Set aside for 5 minutes. Add a bit more water if the batter has become too thick. You want the batter to easily fall in a chunky stream from a spoon.
  4. Oil your steaming pan (see note above about steaming) and set aside.
  5. In a small pan heat the oil to very hot. Add the mustard seeds and allow to cook until they start to pop. Add the curry leaves to the pan and immediately remove from heat. Set aside.
  6. Mix the cilantro and green chilis together and set aside.
  7. Remove 3/4 cup of batter into a smaller bowl. Add 1 tsp eno fruit salt and mix well. It will foam and bubble.
  8. Pour this into the steaming pan. Place the dhokla pan inside the steamer (see note above) and cover with the lid. Allow to steam for 8 minutes.
  9. Remove the dhokla pan from the pot.
  10. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of the reserved cilantro mixture over the top of the dhoklas.
  11. Sprinkle 1 tsp of mustard seeds over the top of the dhoklas.
  12. Using a pizza cutter or other small knife, cut the dhoklas into pieces approximately 2″ x 2″. Remove to a serving plate and serve with chutney.
  13. Repeat making more batches of dhoklas until the batter is done. There should be about 3 batches using a 6″ pan and 3/4 cup of batter to a pan.
Leena’s Green Chutney

Makes 1/2 cup of thick chutney

  • 2 tbsp raw peanuts
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cup cilantro (coriander leaves) with stems and/or mint (leaves only)
  • pinch of salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 or 2 green chilis, optional (to taste)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  1. Wash the cilantro and trim away any woody stems. Keep tender stems as they provide the most flavor. Clean the mint leaves but remove from stems and toss the stems. Set aside.
  2. Cut the green chili(s) and garlic into chunks and set aside.
  3. Blend the peanuts and cumin with about 1 tbsp of water.
  4. Add the cilantro/mint leaves, salt, about 1 tbsp of lemon juice, green chili and garlic to the peanut mixture.
  5. Blend until it becomes a fine, thick paste. Add more water if necessary to get it to blend smoothly.
  6. Adjust salt and lemon as needed.